Fall is in the air and can only mean one thing …
The whitetail bucks are getting ready to rut.
Well OK, maybe that isn’t the only thing it means. I guess some people may tend to think of pumpkin scented and flavored everything, Halloween or even Thanksgiving dinner when the chill of fall hits the air. But to a whitetail hunter, the rut is prime time in the woods.
The whitetail rut, or mating season, is a time when that wise old buck lets his guard down for just a few weeks while he chases his dream girl all around the woods. It gets him moving during all hours of the day and night, and to the hunter, it is a golden time to be in the woods.
All of that movement — and every buck chasing a different doe hoping to make a love connection — might be a great thing for the hunter. It can spell disaster on the roadways because deer don’t often stop to look both ways before crossing the road and this, far too often, spells trouble.
West Virginia is again ranked No. 1 in deer-automobile collision rates. What that boils down to is that most insurance companies say that 1 in every 39 drivers will hit a deer while driving in the Mountain State.
These collisions generally spike in late October through November due primarily to the rut. Whitetails aren’t much different that teenagers during the rut. When the boys start chasing the girls, not much else matters to them and it ends up getting them in trouble.
Just in the past week or so, I have personally had several close calls with deer crossing, or standing nearby the roadway, while traveling. It is in everyone’s best interest to be especially vigilant over the next several weeks as the deer will be running around and not watching where they are going.
This year may be especially tricky with only limited amount of mast in the woods for the deer to eat. This forces them to spend more time near open areas, like road edges, browsing on the readily available vegetation.
So be on the lookout anytime you are driving because it is almost certain that a deer, or maybe an entire herd, won’t be too far off the highway. The best advice I can give is to slow down, especially in late evening and early morning.
These are the best time for hunters to be in the woods because this is when most deer activity occurs. Unfortunately, that same deer activity also puts them in the paths of oncoming traffic at these peak times.
Oh, and guess what else happens in the mornings and then again in the evenings on the roadways? Rush hour.
So we are just doomed to come in contact with a wayward deer or two on the highway on our daily commute. As with most accidents on the roadway, we can’t always avoid them, but we can do what we can to avoid the bulk of them.
As I mentioned, the first thing you can do is to slow down. Especially in times of high traffic, not just for the deer, but on the highway as well. Always stay focused on the road and be sure to scan the shoulder of the road for any deer that might be nearby and ready to dart in your path.
Low visibility is another time to be on guard. Late evening and early morning are times when visibility is limited, just like fog or rainy or snowy weather. Deer are known to be more active in times of inclement weather, so keep your eyes open.
Of course, this is yet another reason to avoid any kind of distracted driving. It only takes a second for a deer to step into the path of your car — not only destroying the deer, but your car in the process.
If you are a hunter, get in the woods and enjoy the upcoming weeks of deer hunting bliss. If you are just trying to get to work or take a scenic drive, be careful on the highways and byways.
No matter what your reason for traveling this time of year, be sure to keep an extra watchful eye on the road ahead because you never know when your day will come to a crashing halt while spilling that much sought-after venison all over the highway.
Roger Wolfe is an outdoor columnist for Civitas Media newspapers.